Posts Tagged ‘The Hurt Locker’

Showbiz Kids: The Oscars, Charlton Heston and Steely Dan

February 3, 2010

Before we begin, there are two important things to remember about the Oscars. The first is the Charlton Heston Rule. That rule is that the Academy is made up of a lot of people like the late Charlton Heston—old fogeys with traditional tastes. Wonder why Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain or There Will Be Blood didn’t take best picture in 2008? It’s not a hard or fast rule, but think about what your grandmother might vote for. There are a lot of retired actors and techies out there who have a say in what wins.

The second rule has been inaugurated this year. It’s the Steely Dan Rule. What do the ‘70s jazz-funk duo have to do with the Academy Awards? You might remember in 2001, their disc Two Against Nature beat out stiff competition from Radiohead’s Kid A. The reason commonly given was that the producers, engineers and other tech-heads who made up the Recording Academy wanted to recognize the painstaking approach Fagen and Becker took in the studio. Two Against Nature didn’t win because it was filled with great tunes like “Do It Again.” It won because, to a group of voters who use their ears for a living, it sounded great.

It’s this latter rule which makes me think that James Cameron is going to have a good night. Avatar is pretty much a turkey as far as movies go and a staggering display of kitsch. There’s no denying, however, that legions of effects people have spent a lot of time making it look good. That effort will, Squally thinks, be honored by the Academy. Cameron also gets the credit for marshalling that effort. Say what you want about Avatar. Like Titanic it took a guy with a genuine Napoleon complex to put it on screen. The Hurt Locker may be the better movie, but it’s still a more modest achievement—especially in terms of box office. At least Kathryn Bigelow gets a chance to work again, which nobody was expecting after The Weight of Water Avatar’s victory, though, is somewhat bittersweet. That the movie should be honored with a best picture nod when wiser heads understood that its acting and script were somewhere around the level of that Tucker Max flick is a pop culture crime of the highest order.

So now onto the rest …

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Oscar Nominations: The Long List

February 2, 2010

Well, it’s been a learning experience. Apparently when Anne Hathaway reads out the Oscar nominations, she doesn’t have to sully herself with announcing the titles in the Best Animated Short pack.

The only real surprises here are a mixed bag for the Best Supporting Actor role (Did The Lovely Bones ever get released?), which Christoph Waltz is now a dead-cert to nab. Then there’s the Best Actor nomination for Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner (well-deserved) and In the Loop getting a Best Adapted Screenplay nod. The Yanks really liked that movie.

Here were the nominations read out at this morning’s press shindig. The list will be updated shortly.

UPDATE: The complete list of Oscar nominations is as follows. Predictions and commentary will take a little bit longer.

BEST PICTURE

Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

BEST DIRECTOR

James Cameron (Avatar)
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Lee Daniels (Precious)
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)

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Avatar: Seeing is Disbelieving

January 11, 2010

Avatar has been hailed not as a film but a cinematic experience which was going to change the way we went to the movies. There was every reason to be excited. Number one, it was the first fiction film from the obscenely talented James Cameron since Titanic. During the past decade, he had been experimenting with the 3D IMAX format. Cameron was presumably looking for a way to make an even bigger movie instead.

The so-called King of the World was desperately needed. The Lord of the Rings aside, it was hard to think of a movie which had used computer effects in a convincing way. There were still glitches of movement and reflection to be worked out. Computer-generated characters seemed curiously weightless. More importantly, Cameron had demonstrated not only action chops but, in Titanic, a command of epic narrative. His scenes were expert demonstrations of a classical style of storytelling. This art was in danger of becoming extinct in an era of fast cuts and short attention spans. Cameron’s planet needed him. Alas, with Avatar he’s delivered his messiest film, one that’s ultimately more barnstorming stunt than coherent statement.

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Best of the Decade, No. 96: The Hurt Locker

January 7, 2010

If filmmakers took their time before jumping on Vietnam, Hollywood was determined to report on Operation Enduring Freedom as it was happening. Indeed, rarely has mainstream film jumped on contemporary events so quickly. Audiences stayed away in droves, but history will hopefully one day return to films like Redacted and The Battle of Haditha. Those movies had points to prove. Kathryn Bigelow’s canny thriller prefers to tie her issues up in the sheer visceral routine of a bomb disposal unit. Locker first and foremost deserves to be celebrated for its suspense sequences—Jeremy Renner’s first day in the field could have made Hitchcock’s palms sweat, while the dispatch of a sniper seems set in the same absurdist desert where Bunuel planted St. Simon of the Stylites. Bigelow emphasizes stress over pyrotechnics. While big name stars are hurriedly put into the ground, the real casualty in this movie is American manhood and the audience’s nervous system. The most enduring image of the film, however, might just be when Renner’s cowboy sergeant returns to the United States and stands bewildered in front of a massive wall of cereal boxes.

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Trailerama: The Hurt Locker

June 12, 2009

MIA Kathryn Bigelow does the Iraqi war, via a bomb disposal unit. The way she blows sh*t up makes Michael Bay look like a rank amateur. Too bad the trailer makers had to over-do it with the slamming nondiegetic sound FX.